Independent Evaluation of The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland and United Way of Greater Cleveland’s Right to Counsel Program Highlights Benefits, Preliminary Return on Community Investment


Independent Firm Stout Preliminarily Estimates Eviction Right to Counsel may have saved the City of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County $4.7 million in social safety net costs in 2021

CLEVELAND: This week, The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland and United Way of Greater Cleveland announced the results of a comprehensive, independent annual evaluation of Cleveland’s Right to Counsel (RTC) in eviction cases. RTC is a program that provides legal representation for certain Cleveland families facing eviction and living at or below the federal poverty line. Through RTC, 93% of eligible Cleveland residents represented by a Legal Aid attorney were able to avoid an eviction judgment or involuntary move in 2021.

RTC is a public-private sector partnership among the City of Cleveland, Legal Aid, and United Way that started July 1, 2020. An evaluation by Stout Risius Ross, LLC (“Stout”), the firm contracted to evaluate the effectiveness of RTC, found that the program increased legal representation in housing court, assisted clients in securing emergency rental assistance funding through CHN Housing Partners to help residents avoid eviction judgments, and may have saved millions of dollars in social safety net programs in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County.

Prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, approximately 9,000 evictions were filed annually in Cleveland Housing Court. In 2021, Legal Aid represented approximately 18% of all tenants facing eviction in Cleveland (estimated to be approximately 60% of all tenants eligible for RTC), compared to between 1% and 2% before RTC was enacted.

“We are changing the system from just quickly processing cases, to thinking of housing as the center of people’s lives,” states Colleen Cotter, executive director of Legal Aid, “With Right to Counsel in Cleveland Housing Court – we are changing how the system operates.  And, City and community investment in free legal aid when housing is at risk enhances and protects other important community assets.” 

“Affordable, safe and stable housing is a basic human right which should be attainable for all Clevelanders, and we are proud through the Right to Counsel partnership between the City of Cleveland, Legal Aid, and United Way, 93% of Cleveland families seeking to avoid an eviction or involuntary move were successful in doing so in 2021,” said Augie Napoli, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Cleveland.”

Napoli added, “Cleveland is the most impoverished city among all major U.S. cities and, we will continue to work tirelessly to help lift our neighbors out of poverty through programs like Right to Counsel and United Way of Greater Cleveland’s 211.”

Other key findings of the full report can be found at and include:

  • Cleveland’s RTC:
    • Secured rental assistance for 83% of clients with this goal
    • Secured time to move (30 days or more) for 92% of clients who had this goal (46% of RTC clients indicated they did not want to stay in their homes)
    • Mitigated damages for 94% of clients with this goal
    • Secured monetary relief for 97% of clients with this goal
  • Approximately 77% of RTC clients who had their cases closed in the calendar year 2021 were female, and approximately 72% were Black. This compares to Cleveland’s population which is 52% female and 49% Black.

Beyond free legal representation in Cleveland Housing Court by Legal Aid attorneys, RTC seeks to provide families with additional resources, including connecting them with rental assistance and other legal aid.  RTC also connects clients to United Way of Greater Cleveland’s 211, a free and confidential 24/7 service that assists callers with hundreds of needs, including food, shelter, utility and employment assistance, and more.

Families can find out if they qualify for RTC by visiting or by calling Legal Aid at (216) 687-1900 or United Way’s 211 service.

Media contacts:

Katie Connell (404-895-5513 – m)

Melanie Shakarian (216-215-0074 – m)



About Right to Counsel Cleveland: Housing instability, often caused by eviction, is a root cause of poverty. The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland began researching ways to address this issue in partnership with the Sisters of Charity Foundation’s Innovation Mission. On October 1, 2019, Cleveland City Council passed historic legislation making legal representation in eviction cases a right for tenants with at least one child in the household living at or below the Federal Poverty Level ($21,300) and naming United Way of Greater Cleveland as Lead Partner Organization. Cleveland is the fourth city in the nation to enact such a right and the first to leverage a public-private partnership to do so.

About Legal Aid: For 117 years, Legal Aid uses the power of the law to increase safety and health, promote education and economic stability; support safe and stable housing; and ensure government and justice systems are accountable and accessible. By solving fundamental problems for families with low incomes, we remove barriers to opportunity and help people achieve greater stability. This leads to greater engagement in our community, which in turn fosters a more thriving democracy.

About United Way of Greater Cleveland: Founded in 1913, United Way of Greater Cleveland is a local, independent nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting poverty across the Greater Cleveland area. The largest private-sector investor of health and human services, United Way invests in efforts that address poverty using a two-pronged approach. The first prong focuses on the daily issues affecting those living in poverty, the Community Hub for Basic Needs. The second drives research and innovation through the Impact Institute, a think tank with an action plan, focused on identifying long-term solutions to break the cycle of poverty. For more information, visit and

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